That Simpson Woman

Not wanting to rip you away from Princess Week too abruptly (we wouldn’t want anyone getting emotionally scarred), we thought we would ween you with one more Royals post. This one will be full of scandal and disgrace and divorce and abdication! Which, if you ask me, is the stuff of the best kind of stories. Obviously, we’re talking about the one and only Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor

This post is timely for more than the fact that we simply want to talk about the Royals some more, though that is part of it. Here’s why:

Have you heard the latest in the train wreck that is Madonna’s attempt at a successful film career? Her sympathetic Wallis and Edward bio-pic “W.E.” is getting widely panned at the Venice Film Festival. The best thing I’ve read about it so far is that it is “rather better than expected.” Not exactly glowing.

Wallis has appeared in the last year in two British TV mini-series “Upstairs Downstairs” and “Any Human Heart” and just happens to be the subject of a new biography, That Woman: The Life of Wallis Simpson, Duchess of Windsor.

Also, an auction of 20 pieces of jewelry owned by the Duchess, given to her by her adoring prince is set for sale. Sotheby’s estimates that these pieces could bring upwards of 3 million pounds.

Finally, fashion does seem to be trending in a certain ‘that Simpson woman’ way. She is regaining her status as serious and current fashion icon. There is no shortage of proof of this on other fashion blogs, Roland Mouret has even created an amazeballs gold silk cap sleeved dress in tribute to her style.

It’s been a long time since Wallis was in the news, and she’s not a exactly covered in history class, so here are the basics. Wallis Simpson was an American and twice divorced – this alone would have been enough to scandalize the Royal family and Britian at the time. It is believed that she actually stole the Prince from his then current mistress, Freda Dudley Ward, who just happened to be one of Wallis’ best friends. Oh, and Wallis was still married to her second husband at the time. Add to this that she was brash,seductive and unapologetic with a bit of a glamorous party girl image and you have the makings of the Abdication Crisis.

After her marriage to Edward and being refused the title of HRH she was consumed by rivalry with Queen Elizabeth, her sister in law. She was known to make fun of the Queens dowdy, flowery fashions and to call her ‘Cookie’. While she may not have been very popular with her contemporaries on a personal level, she was definitely a style-maker. “I’m not a beautiful woman,” she once said, “I’m nothing to look at, so the only thing I can do is dress better than anyone.”

And she did. For reference here’s a bit of what to love about Wallis.

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Daniella Halayel of Kate Middleton’s favourite label Issa has called her “chic and an inspiration.” Her favourite designers tended to be French, since she and Edward lived most of their lives together there. She was often seen in Givenchy and Dior. Mainboucher designed her wedding dress and even named a colour after her – Wallis blue.

Wallis’ style really epitomizes high class 30’s and 40’s fashion: Elegant, subtley sexy evening wear with long slim skirts of watery satins and silks and metallic colours, buttoned up suits, chunky shoes often with straps, buckles or peeps, scarves and bows at the neck, a lot of bias cuts, pattern and little sleeves.

She would carry her style icon status from the 30’s and 40’s for the rest of her life. She was almost always seen with gloves and some amazing brooch. Though her jewelery is legendary, with pieces of it going up for sale soon, she wasn’t typically dripping in precious gems. She favoured brooches and simple pearls and stud earrings.

So, if you’re the kind to spark an international scandal while also becoming a fashion plate, Wallis Simpson would be a good template to follow:

That Woman

A modern take on Wallis is easy to create these days, gowns with ethereal floating skirts are everywhere, and structured day dress, and suits are making a come back. Bows at the neck and tops with other neckline embellishments like ruffles and flowers are in every store and totally cute. Retro inspired shoes are also experiencing an update. Simply add grandma’s antique brooch (or get one from Etsy!) and you’re set. If you’re really committed you’ll search out a panther bracelet and try a severe up do. The pug is optional.


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